How a Single Organizing Idea can Change Business for Good

At the core of the world’s most admired businesses lies a powerful Single Organizing Idea. These organizations deliver sustainable economic and social benefit; they unite people, attract investment, inspire innovation, pioneer new efficiencies, and enjoy positive reputation.

Such businesses are admired but they remain a rare breed.

Though the tides of change are engaging the minds of business leaders, most are still trapped behind their brands and an approach to corporate social responsibility that is out of step with a connected society that increasingly questions ‘who’ these businesses really are and what drives their purpose.

This book is about how businesses can adopt a Single Organizing Idea and, more importantly, why they have to. Drawing on stories and case studies, and with reference to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, its no-nonsense approach sets aside the ideals to confront the realities of business reform. It demonstrates the power and potential that a Single Organizing Idea can bring to any business prepared to take its head out of the sand and proactively respond to today’s challenges.

When you have a core idea at the heart of your business, as co-operatives tend to in focusing on member needs, there can be a richness of motivation and a special kind of empowered collaboration at work. Keep it simple and you can bring more people on board.

Ed Mayo, Secretary General, Co-operatives UK and author of Values

As he says, identifying the odd win-win is not radical enough. And in the digital age, there is no more time for spin and greenwash. Businesses need to change in a more fundamental way, and Neil’s idea of a Single Organising Idea (SOI) is compelling.

Johnathan Glennie, Director, Ipsos’ Sustainable Development Research Centre

I agree with your argument that business needs to focus on its core, rather than philanthropic CSR, and I like the idea of companies bringing focus to how they do that through an SOI. This latter point is what I think really is new in your book.

Zahid Torres-Rahim, Founder, Business Fights Poverty

Your SOI has so much more potential to make a difference than a simple purpose.

Charles Handy

No business can prosper in the future without a clear purpose and here at last is a practical management tool to turn a great theory into gritty reality.

Mike Barry, Director, M&S Plan A


Part 1: A Change of Fortune. 

A short fictional story of our times. 

Part 2: The Case for Change. 

Chapter 1 - The reshaping of capitalism. 

Chapter 2 - The waning of CSR. 

Chapter 3 - The ascent of values. 

Chapter 4 - The surge of technology. 

Chapter 5 - The rise of reputation and the fall of brand. 

Chapter 6 – Turning the dial. 

Part 3: Changing for Good. 

Chapter 7 – Phase 1: Identifying. 
A practitioner's guide to the approaches, tools and techniques that help identify realities, insights and what it takes to gain buy-in and eventual success. 

Chapter 8 – Phase 2: Defining. 
Defining the SOI and the strategic framework that will support it. 

Chapter 9 – Phase 3: Aligning. 
Turning strategy into reality.

Chapter 10 – What it takes. 
Understanding the need for total commitment: Leadership appetite, organizational culture, investing in change. 


NEIL GAUGHT was born in Hertfordshire in the UK in 1963. Following a short spell in the British Army and an even shorter one in the French Foreign Legion he completed his education at the London College of Printing where he gained a BA(Hons) in Graphic Design. A year after graduating he founded his first business, a London-based design consultancy. Having successfully run the business for ten years he sold it to a marketing company before joining WPP’s largest global brand consultancy, Enterprise IG. There he took a leading role on a variety of high profile branding projects for Merrill Lynch, DeBeers, Andersen, Scottish Power, BG Group and Standard Chartered Bank, among others.

In 2003 Neil and his young family moved to New Zealand for the adventure. Following three years with the country’s leading agency DesignWorks, Neil re-established his independent consultancy status. Since then he has advised a wide variety of organizations, ranging from international NGOs and energy, manufacturing and infrastructure corporates to tech start-ups, global faith based organizations and government institutions across Asia Pacific, Europe, Africa and the USA.

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